Yesteryear's hawker fare as good as today's

Patrons eating at Tiong Bahru Hawker Centre on Jan 14, 2019. ST PHOTO: JOSEPH CHUA

The older generation of hawkers in Singapore may not have had proper training or information on food hygiene but I still cannot agree with Ms Priscilla Poh Beng Hoon (Nothing to miss of yesteryears' hawker food, which was unhygienically prepared, April 5).

We should not underestimate the ingenuity of the older generation because they understood how to keep things relatively clean.

In fact, hawker fare of yesteryear survived because competition was severe and they had to offer meticulously prepared, authentic food with tantalising aroma and taste.

Hawkers did not tamper with ingredients, and they curtailed tedious processes with tested recipes to shrink food preparation time.

Otherwise they would be out of business.

I would like to share my experience of helping my aunt at her Geylang roadside stall in the early 50s.

It was normal, for example, for customers to dip sticks of satay into a common gravy pot. People survived because the human body responded to changing environmental conditions that made them more robust.

Also, clean water was available then too, from public standpipes.

While it is true that street hawkers used one pail of water to wash soiled crockery and chopsticks, they also rinsed them in another pail and wiped clean with a fabric towel.

Roadside stall owners also changed their water when necessary and refilled stock from nearby coffee shops, while hawkers on tricycles and motorcycles refilled their water from standpipes. Many perishable food items were kept in iceboxes too.

I can vouch for the fact that hawker food of yesteryear was just as great as today, and clean too.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

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